Friday, September 2
During the night the wind started to blow over the gap to the South and the fog formed but left the water level clear. Morning certainly wasn’t as picture perfect as the night before had been. But we were in no hurry and had a delightful breakfast, Karen’s orange cranberry bread, and still managed to get a fairly early start. Going out through Eclipse Narrows we got an additional push from the outgoing current and achieved a speed of 8.9 knots, 1.8 above normal. As soon as we left the North-South oriented Frederick Sound into the East-West oriented Seymour Inlet the wind fell to zero and the water was flat calm.
Since we had a fairly long way to go we decided to exercise the engine. My diesel mechanic has told me that diesel engines like to be run at higher rpms on a regular basis so we took advantage of the calm conditions to increase our rpms from our normal 1600 up to 2300 for 45 minutes. It was fun to “go fast” but in fact we only increased our speed by 25% at the cost of more than 3 times the amount of fuel. I hope the engine loved it.
When we got back out to the jog in Seymour inlet that we had navigated in the fog the day before, we investigated a couple of potential anchor sites, each useful in different wind conditions, then headed south into what one of our guide books calls Explorer Passage but is unnamed on the chart. Three miles down it the Passage narrows and becomes so shallow that our boat could only go through on a very high tide. So we were stopped at that point. (The next suitable tide won’t be until September 10th.) Too bad, there’s a lot to explore beyond the narrows. Luckily, just before the narrows the Passage widens into a lovely bay suitable for anchoring so we did. It was very calm and would have become hot in the boat were it not for the increasing clouds. That, and the falling barometer, showed a change in the weather is in the works. We will have to see what tomorrow brings. In the meantime, a great sunset.
Saturday, September 3
The day started with a clear sky and brilliant view of Orion in the SE and Jupiter in the SW. That was 4 am. By the time we got out of bed it was cloudy, followed shortly by showers and by rain at noon. And as usual the crab trap we had left out overnight was empty. Not exactly an auspicious start to the day so we decided to stay where we are another night. The barometer has been steady and there is no wind so I’m hopeful for tomorrow.
Mischief is both a seaworthy traveling boat and a comfortable living accommodation and today we were going to enjoy the living aboard part to the fullest. That means a mixture of boat chores, food, music, writing and art – maybe even a nap. Life is good, even in the rain.
Sunday, September 4
The wind and hard rain continued until 2 or 3 in the morning and not long after, around 5, we both woke up thinking the boat had dragged its anchor and was being carried away by the rapids; the sound of rushing water was so loud. But a look around in the blackness somehow convinced us we hadn’t moved. In the morning we could see the source of the sound; we had managed to anchor 100 yards away from 3 waterfalls coming down the hillside next to us, waterfalls that hadn’t existed the day before. It’s amazing what one rainstorm can do.
We spent a week exploring beyond Nakwakto Rapids and true to our expectation we never saw another pleasure boat. It was calm at our targeted 11:00 slack and we continued back Schooner Channel the way we had come a week before. Amazingly, we saw the same sea otter in the channel but it was too shy to pose for a picture. When we entered Queen Charlotte Strait the wind was light with a low swell from the ocean that caused no problems so we continued on across towards the Vancouver Island shore, at this point only 9 miles away. We were headed to Clam Bay on Nigei Island (pronounced NEE-gee), an anchorage we had never been to before. It has a complicated entrance among islands and reefs but once inside a shallow bay opens up with anchoring room for many boats. There weren’t any other boats but there was a little community of float houses tucked into one corner which, judging by the sound of a generator, were occupied. It felt a bit strange to have neighbors again.
Monday, September 5
Today was the day we started our return journey by heading to Port McNeill for food, fuel, internet and life at a dock. We expected it to be a straight shot under autopilot but it turned out more interesting than that.
We left Clam Cove under partly sunny skies mixed with patches of fog in the trees. The entrance was much easier the second time and we started heading south. It wasn’t long before we saw a lone humpback rise to the surface then dive. A while later, near the entrance to Port Hardy, we saw a small Orca pod in the binoculars. Then later as we approached Port McNeill we had two groups of sea otters swim in front of the boat – headed across the strait. Perhaps we’ll see them in the Broughtons the next time we visit. Their range has certainly expanded from the Bunsby Islands on the West Coast of Vancouver Island where they were reintroduced in 1972. Pulling into the marina in Port McNeill was easy – there is almost no one here. The cruising season seems to have ended here.
We did as many of our chores as we could – its Labor Day holiday here and most stores are closed. Luckily the laundromat and grocery store were open. And since we have shore power we got some ice cream for movie night in our salon. And there is chocolate chip cookie dough in the refrigerator just waiting to complete the celebration. Tomorrow we will finish our reprovisioning and head out for more exploration as we aim towards home.